Amtrak doesn’t currently allow pet dogs on board, but there is one U.S. passenger train system that does: The Alaska Railroad Corporation allows you to bring your pet dog with you, with some important caveats. She must travel in “an airline-approved kennel,” and only in the baggage car. I called the ARRC for more details, and learned that they charge a $20 fee per pet. The baggage car is not heated, nor does it have air conditioning. It is insulated, and it’s located next to the engines, but you’ll want to call the railroad and talk about the kinds of temperatures your dog is likely to encounter. You may collect your dog at the train stops and take her outside for a bathroom break — you’ll need to talk to the conductor as you’re boarding, and work out the logistics of collecting and returning your dog (the train stops are brief — in Talkeetna, for example, you have a 20 minute stop, but you only have 10 minutes in Denali).
The rail line stretches between Fairbanks in the north and Seward in the south, with possible stops at Denali, Talkeetna, Wasilla, Girdwood, Whittier, Portage, Spencer and Grandview. If you’re simply trying to get from one location to another, check out this overview of the available trains.
The ARRC also offers several vacation packages, involving railroad travel, rides on buses, rafts, dogsleds and “flightseeing” planes, and hotel stays (in various combinations). The customer service representative I spoke to told me that nearly all of the hotels included in the vacation packages are not dog-friendly (the exception is Anchorage’s Comfort Inn). However, if you are able to locate dog-friendly hotels in the locations you want to visit, the ARRC will help you create a vacation package incorporating their transportation and sightseeing options and your hotel choices. Keep in mind that you will have to research whether the bus/raft/dogsled/flightseeing side-trips they offer allow pet dogs on board.
This is not, of course, how I’d prefer to travel by train with Chloe. It doesn’t begin to compare with how pet dogs are treated on European trains. I’m not even sure that I consider this much of an improvement over Amtrak’s no-pet-dogs-at-all policy — to be honest, I’d likely choose instead to rent a car and drive. However, the option is available, and I wanted you to know about it.